03:00PM, Sunday 27 November 2016
Five women from Maidenhead went off the beaten track and cycled through 40-degree heat from Vietnam to Cambodia, raising more than £17,000 for charity.
Karen Stevens, Shellie Stemp, Debra Stritch, Lesley Lewis and Gill Clifford set off on their 280-mile journey with 76 other women at the start of November, on a trip organised by the charity Women V Cancer.
Gill, 52, told the Advertiser after raising about £14,000 as part of a group of four women in Women V Cancer’s 2014 trip to China, she wanted to sign up to this year’s challenge.
Out of the group Karen and Debra have both had cancer and are in remission.
The team cycled from Vietnam’s capital Ho Chi Minh City, through to the Mekong Delta,
before crossing over to Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh.
From there the group travelled west and crossed the finish line with the iconic temple
of Angkor Wat ahead of them.
Gill, who works as a teaching assistant at Courthouse Junior School in Maidenhead, said: “It’s an amazing place, you just don’t see these kinds of places at home.”
On their journey the Maidenhead group got the chance to see a number of rural villages well away from the gap-year circuit.
“We were going places where people [tourists] hadn’t been – we were very privileged,” she said. “The people are beautiful people, they’re so friendly.”
She said many of the villagers were surprised to see a horde of 76 western women cycling towards them.
“In Cambodia we were really lucky and made a stop at some temples with monks, that was really quite something,” she said.
“They have some aura about them, they’re a very calm and peaceful people and welcomed us in.”
The cyclists encountered a few hairy moments along their journey, including a snake falling out of a tree and blocking their path.
“There were about four of us screaming with our legs in the air,” added Gill.
The group also tested their limits in 40-degree tropical heat.
“We were just sweating the entire time, it was just pouring off us,” she said.
The five friends returned to Maidenhead on Sunday, November 12, and are now recovering from their efforts.
Search the cyclists’ names on www.justgiving.com if you would like to make a donation.